Protecting Your Work on Flickr

This article investigate the topic of intellectual property protection on Yahoo's Flickr. Read on to learn what options are available to you and then how to change the license on your photos and videos. There are two options that are supported by Flickr at present: Copyright and Creative Commons.


Copyright is the more traditional method of IP protection. It means that only the content producer (you) and those with his/her express permission have the "right" to "copy" the work. Choosing a copyright license will give you total control of (legal) uses of your photo or video. Copyright licenses are also (arguably) more internationally recognized than Creative Commons licenses.

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons license, an alternative to copyright, made its debut in 2001. It is a more permissive license, and can be attached to a photo or video with different conditions enabled or disabled. All Creative Commons licenses allow for material to be republished and stipulate that this must be accompanied by an acknowledgment of the original author/artist. Three other variables are under your control...

  1. Commercial Use - Opting for non-commerical means that those who re-publish your work cannot use it for their own direct financial gain.
  2. Derivatives - You can also control whether derivative works can be allowed: essentially, whether other artists can "remix" your work.
  3. Share Alike - This means that derivative works of yours must carry the same license that yours does.

Creative Commons licenses have some advantages over copyright. For instance, many bloggers use content from Flickr to supplement their own content. If you choose to CC-license your work, it enters the pool of content available to them.

How to Change or Modify the License on Your Works

You may want to change the license for every photo and video will publish or just to experiment with a new license on a photo you have already taken. Here are step-by-step guides to doing both...

Change your Account Settings

Log in to Flickr and click the downwards-facing triangle next to "You." Select "Your Account," which will be third from the bottom. Now, find the "Privacy & Permissions" tab and click. Scroll down to the "Defaults for new uploads" and find "What license will your content have." If you wish to change this, select the blue "edit" text at right.

As well as the license options, you will find a helpful guide to the Creative Commons license and a link to "batch-select" a license for your pre-existing photos.

Change the Content License on an Individual Picture

Log in to Flickr. Select the downwards-facing triangle next to "You," then choose "Your Photostream," directly below. Find the desired picture or video, either by browsing or by using the "Search your photostream" box in the upper right. Below the thumbnail, to the bottom left, you will find a gray logo: either the copyright symbol or Creative Commons symbol(s). Click on this logo and arrive at the "Set a license for this photo" page. Here you will find "none" for copyright and 6 other options for Creative Commons licenses.

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